Chapter 17 The Dispersion Of Israel

ARTICLE 10 -- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; * * *

Israel -- The combined name and title, Israel, in the original sense of the word, expressed the thought of one who had succeeded in his supplication before the Lord; "soldier of God," "one who contends with God," "a prince of God," are among the common English equivalents. The name first appears in sacred writ as a title conferred upon Jacob, when the latter prevailed in his determination to secure a blessing from his heavenly visitor in the wilderness, receiving the promise: "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." FN We read further: "And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan-aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel." FN

But the name-title thus bestowed under conditions of solemn dignity acquired a wider application, and came to represent the posterity of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, FN with each of whom the Lord had covenanted that through his descendants should all nations of the earth be blessed. FN The name of the individual patriarch thus grew into the designation of a people, including the twelve tribes, who delighted in the title Israelites, or children of Israel. By such names they were collectively known during the dark days of their Egyptian bondage, FN throughout the forty years of the exodus and the journey to the land of promise, FN on through the period of their existence as a powerful people under the government of the Judges, and as a united nation during the hundred and twenty years comprised in the successive reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. FN

At the death of Solomon, probably about 975 B.C., the kingdom was divided. The tribe of Judah and part of the tribe of Benjamin accepted Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, as their king; while the rest of the people, usually spoken of as the Ten Tribes, revolted against Rehoboam, thus breaking their allegiance with the house of David, and chose Jeroboam as their king. The Ten Tribes under Jeroboam retained the title kingdom of Israel, though the kingdom was likewise known by the name of Ephraim FN from its most prominent tribe; while Rehoboam and his subjects were known as the kingdom of Judah. For about two hundred and fifty years the two kingdoms maintained a separate existence; after which, about 721 B.C., the independent status of the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and the people were brought into captivity by the Assyrians under Shalmanezer. The Kingdom of Judah was recognized for over a century longer, and then it was brought to an end by Nebuchadnezzar, who inaugurated the Babylonian captivity. For seventy years the people remained in subjection, and this was in accordance with the prophecy of Jeremiah; FN then the Lord softened the hearts of the ruling kings, and the work of emancipation was begun by Cyrus the Persian. The Hebrew people were permitted to return to Judea and to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.

The people, then commonly known as Hebrews, or Jews, FN retained as the name of their nation the appellation "Israel," though they scarcely comprised two complete tribes out of the twelve. The name Israel, thus held with commendable pride by the remnant of a once mighty nation, was used in a figurative manner to designate the covenant people who constituted the Church of Christ; FN and in that sense it is still employed. The Israelites, as first we meet them in history, were a united people. That we may comprehend the true import of the gathering to which reference is made in the tenth of the Articles of Faith, it is necessary that we first consider the dispersion and scattering to which the people have been subjected. The scriptures abound in predictions concerning such dispersions; scripture and secular history in general unite in testimony of the fulfilment of these prophecies.

The Dispersion of Israel Foretold -- It has been said, that "if a complete history of the house of Israel were written, it would be the history of histories, the key of the world's history for the past twenty centuries." FN Justification for this sweeping statement is found in the fact that the Israelites have been so completely dispersed among the nations as to give to this scattered people a place of importance as a factor in the rise and development of almost every large division of the human family. This work of dispersion was brought about by many stages, and extended through millenniums. It was foreseen by the early prophets; and the spiritual leaders of every generation prior to and immediately following the Messianic era predicted the scattering of the people, as an ordained result of their increasing wickedness, or referred to the fulfilment of former prophecies regarding the dispersion then already accomplished, and foretold a further and more complete diffusion of the nation.

Biblical Prophecies -- In the course of the exodus from Egypt, where the Israelites had dwelt as in a house of bondage, to Canaan the land of their promised inheritance, the Lord gave them many laws; and established ordinances for their government in temporal and spiritual affairs. He arrayed for their contemplation blessings beyond the power of the unaided mind of man to conceive, predicating these upon their obedience to the laws of righteousness and their allegiance to Himself as God and King. In contrast with this picture of blessed prosperity, the Lord described with terrible distinctness and soul-harrowing detail a state of abject misfortune and blighting suffering, into which they would surely fall if they departed from the path of rectitude and adopted the sinful practises of the heathen peoples with whom they would have dealings. The darkest parts of this dread picture were those that depicted the prospective breaking up of the nation, and the scattering of the people among those who knew not God. These extreme calamities, however, were to befall Israel only if less severe chastisements should have proved ineffective. FN

When the journey following the exodus was nearing its close, as the Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan and to take possession of the land of promise, when Moses, patriarch, law-giver and prophet, was about to ascend Nebo, whence to look over the goodly land and then be taken from earth, he repeated the story of contrasted blessings and cursings, which were inseparable from God's covenant with the people. "The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies" was declared unto them; and again: "The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee." Yet further: "The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favor to the young * * * And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone." FN

As the sacred record progresses the fact is made plain that Israel had chosen the evil alternative, forfeiting the blessings and reaping the curses. When the son of sinful Jeroboam lay sick almost unto death, the troubled king sent his wife in disguise to Ahijah, the blind prophet of Israel, to inquire concerning the fate of the child. The prophet, seeing beyond the physical blindness of his old age, predicted the child's death and the overthrow of the house of Jeroboam; and declared further: "For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger." FN

Through Isaiah the Lord justifies His judgment upon the people, likening them to an unprofitable vineyard, which, in spite of protecting hedge and fullest care had yielded but wild grapes and which was fit only for spoliation; "Therefore," He continues, "my people are gone into captivity." FN And yet other tribulations were to follow, against which the people were warned lest they alienate themselves entirely from the God of their fathers: "And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? To whom will ye flee for help?" FN The prophet directs the attention of his erring people to the fact that their tribulations are from the Lord: "Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law. Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle." FN

After the captivity of Ephraim, or the kingdom of Israel specifically so called, the people of Judah needed yet further admonishments. Through Jeremiah the fate of their brethren was brought to their remembrance; then, as a result of their continued and increasing wickedness, the Lord said: "And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim." FN Their land was to be despoiled; all the cities of Judah were to be consigned to desolation, FN and the people were to be scattered among the kingdoms of the earth. FN Other prophets FN revealed the Lord's words of anger and dire warning; and the divine decree is recorded: "I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve;" FN and again: "I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries." FN

Book of Mormon Predictions -- The record made by the division of the house of Israel that took its departure from Jerusalem and made its way to the western hemisphere about 600 B.C., contains many references to the dispersions that had already taken place, and to the continuation of the scattering which was to the writers of the Book of Mormon yet future. In the course of the journey to the coast, and while encamped with his company in the valley of Lemuel on the borders of the Red Sea, the Prophet Lehi declared what he had learned by revelation of the future "dwindling of the Jews in unbelief," of their crucifying the Messiah, and of their scattering "upon all the face of the earth." FN He compared Israel to an olive-tree, FN the branches of which were to be broken off and distributed; and he recognized the exodus of his colony and their journeying afar as an incident in the general course of dispersion. FN Nephi, son of Lehi, also beheld in vision the scattering of the covenant people of God, and on this point added his testimony to that of his prophet-father. FN He saw also that the posterity of his brethren, subsequently known as the Lamanites, would be chastened for their unbelief, and that they were destined to become subject to the Gentiles, and to be scattered before them. FN Down the prophetic vista of years he saw also the bringing forth of sacred records, other than those then known, "unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, FN and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth." FN

After their arrival on the promised land, the colony led by Lehi received further information regarding the dispersion of Israel. The prophet Zenos, FN quoted by Nephi, had predicted the unbelief of the house of Israel, in consequence of which the people were to "wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations." FN The brothers of Nephi, skeptical in regard to these teachings, asked whether the things of which he spake were to come to pass in a spiritual sense or more literally, and were informed that "the house of Israel, sooner or later," will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations"; and further, in reference to dispersions then already accomplished, that "the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea"; FN and then, by way of prediction concerning further division and separation, Nephi adds that the Gentiles shall be given power over the people of Israel, "and by them shall our seed be scattered." FN Though an ocean lay between the country of their nativity and the land to which they had been miraculously brought, the children of Lehi learned through revelation by the mouth of Jacob, Nephi's brother, of the captivity of the Jews whom they had left at Jerusalem. FN By Nephi they were further told of troubles then impending over the city of their birth, and of a further dispersion of their kindred, the Jews. FN

The Lamanites, a division of Lehi's posterity, were also to be disrupted and scattered, as witness the words of Samuel, a prophet of that benighted people. FN Nephi, the third prophet of that name, grandson of Helaman, emphasizes the dispersion of his people by declaring that their "dwellings shall become desolate." FN Jesus Himself, after His resurrection, while ministering to the division of His flock on the western hemisphere, refers solemnly to the remnant who were to be "scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief." FN

From these citations it is plain that the followers of Lehi, including his own family, and Zoram, FN together with Ishmael and his family, FN from whom sprang the mighty peoples the Nephites, who suffered extermination as a nation because of their unfaithfulness, and the Lamanites, who, now known as the American Indians, have continued in troubled existence until the present day, were informed by revelation of the dispersion of their former compatriots in the land of Palestine, and of their own certain doom if they continued in disobedience to the laws of God. We have said that the transfer of Lehi and his followers from the eastern to the western hemisphere was itself a part of the general dispersion. It should be remembered that another colony of Jews came to the west, the start dating about eleven years after the time of Lehi's departure. This second company was led by Mulek, a son of Zedekiah, who was the last king of Judah; they left Jerusalem immediately after the capture of the city by Nebuchadnezzar, about 588 B.C. FN

The Fulfilment of These Prophecies -- The sacred scriptures, as well as other writings for which the claim of direct inspiration is not asserted, record the literal fulfilment of prophecy in the desolation of the house of Israel. The dividing of the nation into the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel led to the downfall of both. As the people grew in their disregard for the laws of their fathers their enemies were permitted to triumph over them. After many minor losses in war the kingdom of Israel met an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the Assyrians, in or about the year 721 B.C. We read that Shalmanezer IV, king of Assyria, besieged Samaria, the third and last capital of the kingdom, FN and that after three years the city was taken by Sargon, Shalmanezer's successor. The people of Israel were carried captive into Assyria and distributed among the cities of the Medes. FN Thus was the dread prediction of Ahijah to the wife of Jeroboam fulfilled. Israel was scattered beyond the river, FN probably the Euphrates, and from the time to this event the Ten Tribes are lost to history.

The sad fate of the kingdom of Israel had some effect in partially awakening among the people of Judah a sense of their own impending doom. Hezekiah reigned as king for nine and twenty years, and proved himself a bright exception to a line of wicked rulers who had preceded him. Of him we are told that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." FN During his reign, the Assyrians under Sennacherib invaded the land; but the Lord's favor was in part restored to the people and Hezekiah roused them to a reliance upon their God, bidding them take courage and fear not the Assyrian king nor his hosts, "for," said this righteous prince, "there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." FN The Assyrian army was miraculously destroyed. FN But Hezekiah died, and Manasseh ruled in his stead; this king did evil in the sight of the Lord, FN and the wickedness of the people continued for half a century or more, broken only by the good works of one righteous king, Josiah. FN

While Zedekiah occupied the throne, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem, FN took the city about 588 B.C., and soon thereafter led the people captive into Babylon, thus virtually putting an end to the kingdom of Judah. The people were scattered among the cities of Asia, and groaned under the vicissitudes of the Babylonian captivity for nearly seventy years, after which they were given permission by Cyrus the Persian, who had subdued the Babylonians, to return to Jerusalem. Multitudes of the exiled Jews availed themselves of this opportunity, though many remained in the land of their captivity; and while those who did return earnestly sought to reestablish themselves on a scale of their former power they were never again a truly independent people. They were assailed by Syria and Egypt, and later became tributary to Rome, in which condition they were during the personal ministry of Jesus Christ amongst them.

Jeremiah's prophecy still lacked a complete fulfilment, but time proved that not a word was to fail. "Judah shall be carried away captive, all of it; it shall be wholly carried away captive"; FN this was the prediction. A rebellious disturbance among the Jews gave a semblance of excuse for chastisement to be visited upon them by their Roman masters, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 71. The city fell after a six months' siege before the Roman arms led by Titus, son of the Emperor Vespasian. Josephus, the famous historian to whom we owe most of our knowledge as to the details of the struggle, was himself a resident in Galilee and was carried to Rome among the captives. From his record we learn that more than a million Jews lost their lives through the famine incident to the siege; many more were sold into slavery, and uncounted numbers were forced into exile. The city was utterly destroyed, and the site upon which the Temple had stood was plowed up by the Romans in their search for treasure. Thus literally were the words of Christ fulfilled: "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." FN

Since the destruction of Jerusalem and the final disruption of the Jewish autonomy, the Jews have been wanderers upon the face of the earth, a people without a country, a nation without a home. The prophecy uttered by Amos of old has had its literal fulfilment -- truly have Israel been sifted among all nations "like as corn is sifted in a sieve." FN Let it be remembered, however, that coupled with this dread prediction was the promise: "Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth."

The Lost Tribes -- As already stated, in the division of the Israelites after the death of Solomon ten tribes established themselves as an independent kingdom. This, the kingdom of Israel, was terminated as far as history is concerned by the Assyrian captivity, 721 B.C. The people were led into Assyria and later disappeared so completely that they have been called the Lost Tribes. They seem to have departed from Assyria, and while we lack definite information as to their final destination and present location, there is abundant evidence that their journey was toward the north. FN The Lord's word through Jeremiah promises that the people shall be brought back "from the land of the north," FN and a similar declaration has been made through divine revelation in the present dispensation. FN

In the writings of Esdras or Ezra, which, however, are not included among the canonical books of the Bible but are known as apocryphal, we find references to the northbound migration of the Ten Tribes, which they undertook in accordance with a plan to escape the heathen by going to "a farther country where never man dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes which they never kept in their own land." FN The same writer informs us that they journeyed a year and a half into the north country, but he gives us evidence that many remained in the land of their captivity.

The resurrected Christ, while ministering among the Nephites on this hemisphere, specifically mentioned "the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land;" FN and again He referred to them as "other sheep which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem; neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister." FN Christ announced a commandment of the Father that He should reveal Himself to them. The present location of the Lost Tribes has not been revealed.


Dispersion of Israel Foretold -- Biblical Predictions

Prediction that the descendants of Joseph should be as branches that run over the wall -- Gen. 49:22.

And I will scatter you among the heathen -- this conditioned on the wickedness of the people -- Lev. 26:33; see also Deut. 4:27.

Israel to flee before their enemies, and to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth -- Deut. 28:25. The people to become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord would lead them -- verse 37. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other -- verse 64.

Because of their wickedness the Lord would smite Israel, and root them up out of the good land, and scatter them beyond the river -- 1 Kings 14:15.

The Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria -- 2 Kings 17:23.

To the kingdom of Judah the Lord spake: And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim -- Jer. 7:15. Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive -- 13:19; see also 15:14. Judah to be delivered, to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither the Lord would drive them -- 29:16-19.

And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries -- Ezek. 22:15.

I will sift the house of Israel, among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth -- Amos 9:9.

And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries -- Zech. 10:9.

Woes to fall upon the people in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which would come from far -- Jer. 5:15.

Israel shall surely go into captivity -- Amos 7:17.

The people who remained until the time of Christ were to be further scattered: Shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled -- Luke 21:24.

Book of Mormon Prophecies of the Dispersion

Lehi predicted the Babylonian captivity, and that the people should be scattered on all the face of the earth, and recognized the bringing of himself and his colony to the western continent as part of the decreed scattering -- 1 Nephi 10:3, 12-14.

Scattering of the descendants of Lehi shown in vision to Nephi -- 1 Nephi 13:14, 15.

Scattering of the Jews following the crucifixion of Christ foretold by Jacob -- 2 Nephi 10:5, 6; compare verse 22.

The Voice from heaven proclaimed further scattering unless the people would repent -- 3 Nephi 10:7.

The Gentiles to contribute to the scattering of the house of Israel -- 3 Nephi 20:27; see also Mormon 5:9, 20.

The Dispersion Successively Accomplished

The kingdom of Israel removed, and none but those of Judah left; all the seed of Israel delivered into the hand of spoilers -- 2 Kings 17:20.

And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria -- 2 Kings 18:9-11.

The Lord gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers, because of the sins of the people -- Isa. 42:24.

Zion a wilderness and Jerusalem a desolation -- Isa. 64:10, 11.

I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries -- Ezek. 20:23, 24; see also 36:19; compare 34:5, 6.

And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon -- 2 Chron. 36:17-20.

But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not -- Zech. 7:13, 14; compare Joel 3:2; James 1:1.

Nephi proclaimed part of the dispersion already accomplished and predicted further scattering -- 1 Nephi 22:3-5, 7, 8.

The Lord revealed to Jacob that the Jews had been carried away captive -- 2 Nephi 6:8.

Consider the allegory of the olive-tree, and the pruning of the vineyard -- Jacob, chaps. 5, 6.